For millennia, the Southwest region has been a crossroads of cultures, languages, customs, and ideas. Its diverse ethnic groups and societies, past and present, lend the Southwest a distinct regional identity, shaped by the land itself.
It was in recognition of that special character that the Southwest Center was first conceived at a conference held at San Xavier del Bac Mission, outside Tucson, in 1978, when then-president John Schaefer and field historian Bernard L. Fontana, among others, first proposed that an institution devoted to regional studies be founded at the University of Arizona. Eight years later, their vision was realized with the formal establishment of the Southwest Center.
Faculty and research associates of the Southwest Center document and interpret the region’s natural and human cultures through a vigorous program of scholarly investigation. Recognizing that no single academic discipline can fully comprehend the Southwest, the Center serves foremost as a clearinghouse for the exchange of ideas from many fields. Insights drawn from social and intellectual history, anthropology, geography, folklore, literature, photography, architecture, politics, ecology, ethno-botany, and the natural sciences alike contribute to our ever-broadening study of the region.
A research unit of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences of the University of Arizona, the Southwest Center has a threefold mission: to sponsor and facilitate research on the Greater Southwest, to publish exemplary work growing from that research, and to act in service to citizens of the region through programs of teaching and outreach. In all three areas special emphasis is given to strengthening individual and institutional ties to our colleagues at universities and cultural centers in the Republic of Mexico.
The Southwest Center carries out the land grant mission of the University of Arizona by creating partnerships with Sonora and Mexico, contributing substantially to scholarship and research on diverse cultures native to the Southwest, and representing to the larger world the University’s regional interest and expertise. The Center’s activities are based in three disciplines-ethnoecology, architecture, and folklore-and extend into five broad areas: native peoples of the Mexican northwest; contemporary cultural studies and folklore of the region; ethnobotany/ecology/rural development of the region; history of anthropology; and architectural cultures of the Southwest.